What side of the fence are you on?

The amount of effort put out by some of us to debate and defend an outdated practice, that is set in our brain because “it’s the right way to do it”, can be surprising. For example, when building fence, which side of the post do you attach the wire? If you have a bit of experience building fence, you know the proper answer to this question is the wire always goes on the inside of the fence so the livestock pressure has to push against both the post and wire if they want to stick their heads through the fence. As a young man, building barbed wire and woven wire fences, I accepted this as a truism and never questioned it. But as I got older and wiser [meaning I had children who questioned my truisms!] I began to wonder about this–especially since I had migrated to electric fence. Questions popped up:

–What side of the fence does the wire go on an interior fence? Livestock are often on both sides of the fence.
–What about a fence between neighbors who both own livestock?
–If the fence is electric, livestock don’t push against the wire so why does it matter?
–Why do the livestock want to stick their head through the fence and graze the roadside?

Since there is no good answer to the “which side of the post to attach the wire on an interior or neighbor fence” question, then why was it so important on an exterior fence along the road? I think it comes down to the way we used to, and some still do, graze their livestock. The grass was almost always better [greener] on the other side of the fence, so we would often see the cow with her head outstretched through the wires grazing the roadside. I like to think that our grazing practices now make the grass the cows are grazing on our side of the fence as good and, hopefully, better than the roadside. With daily moves and longer rest periods, the grass they are grazing is usually more lush than what’s outside the fence. But the truth is, with electric fencing the cows don’t know what the roadside grass tastes like because they definitely don’t have a strong enough desire for it to overcome the shock of reaching it.

Gary Duncan called me one morning and said he had been discussing with a customer this question about an interior one wire electric fence and the woman asked him why she couldn’t just alternate which side of the wire she drove the posts. In other words, pull the guide wire tight, but then drive every other post on opposite sides of the wire. She thought this would keep cotter pins from having to take all the pressure of deer hitting the fence since some of the pressure would be against a post and some on the cotter pins. I said to Gary “posts on both sides of the wire-that just doesn’t seem right!”. He said that’s what he thought too, but then he said “why?”… I had no answer and the more we discussed it the tougher it became to come up with an answer.

My advice is to keep your fence line straight, your wires tight and put the wire on whichever dang side of the post pleases you.


About Steve Freeman

Steve Freeman joined Forester Industries as a partner in 2005 after being one of the first customers to use the PasturePro post. He installed his first electric fence in the early 1980’s and implemented management intensive grazing in 1987. Presently, the operation is exclusively beef cattle, but in the past it has also included both goats and sheep. Steve is always happy to talk grazing practices, livestock raising and fence building.
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